The world is full of cycling caps, and they are not all created equal. Walz makes their hats, by hand, in the USA. Whether or not their handmade-ness or their USA-ness are behind the quality and comfort of the final product is not for me to say. What I will say is that Walz makes a great cap.
Let me start by saying what I appreciated most about this four-panel hat, is that it didn’t require breaking in. It was comfortable from the first wearing, and by the third or fourth already seemed like an old friend. I have owned all manner of cycling head wear, cotton, wool and synthetic, and without exception it takes time to break in. Not Brooks saddle time, but time. My Walz cap did not.
My wife approved it for off-bike wear despite violation of the strict prohibition against wearing cycling caps whilst not cycling. Her approval is a big deal, since any other time I summon the temerity to keep my hat on in a restaurant or at the grocery store she flashes me that reproachful glance that says, “Really? Must you?”
Another plus for this cap is that its fit is not tight/not loose, so you can fit a beanie underneath when it’s really cold, but then not end up with a distended pancake on your head when the weather warms up enough to allow for wearing it on its own. I have an average size head, and the small/medium was just right.
I also appreciated the minimal but highly effective sweat band around the interior, which kept the sweat-wet wool from irritating my forehead. At the same time, this cap breathes extremely well. The wool manages to be both thick and airy at the same time. I have not in 30-40 wearings been able to make this hat stink, which is saying more than you can imagine.
Above and beyond the quality of the hat though, I appreciate that someone makes hats that I want to wear regardless of what might be printed on the brim or the side panel. Sure, I have a collection of cycling caps that broadcast my brand preferences and all the subtle, inside jokes that mark me out as an annoying cyclo-dork, but Walz gives me the option of just wearing something for its pure function, a function it serves very well.
Of all the logos in cycling, one of my favorites is Richard Sachs’ “RS” design. It was created by the talented Chuck Schmidt. Schmidt does all of the design work for Sachs’ many logos, which is why all his non-bike stuff is of a piece. I could go on and on about why I love his design work so much, or why Schmidt is such an interesting guy—he used to put on the Velo Rendezvous event in Pasadena and has a collection of bikes like Lindsay Lohan has days in court—but that’s not really the point of this post.
Short of purchasing a Richard Sachs frame, if you were a fan of the builder, there haven’t been many ways to show your affinity while out for a ride. Well, Richard has just offered his first cycling cap. You heard that right, his first cycling cap.
Richard says he was inspired, in part, by my paean to the cycling cap. You’ll pardon me if I feel honored.
To keep it in style with his kits it’s a black hat with his traditional RICHARDSACHS band on the front, and the Schmidt-designed Cross Rules(both sides) and atmo (on the brim) logos. Rich but not overdone. The brim is tiny; it’s narrower than any other I’ve run across in recent years and its length is shortened in proportion to its width, just 2 inches.
While this cap isn’t cotton, it isn’t like other non-cotton cycling caps I’ve seen. This one is produced from a microfiber polyester that has a shiny, if innocuous appearance. I like this way better than the other waffle weave materials I’ve seen used. I expect the colors will last a good deal longer than the typical cotton unit, so it’s got that going for it, too. One other little note: It’s a tiny bit smaller in fit than a Castelli cap, though just as deep.
Richard says wearing one will “get you more tail than Sinatra.” Of course, if that’s not your style, he’s got his knitted “Fidel” cap in stock as well.
Check out the cycling cap here.
You may recall my post from last winter on the cotton cycling cap. Chock full of nostalgia and ambivalence, the post sparked a stunning number of comments for so humble an item. They were all, shall we say, of a piece. Frankly, I was surprised that there was so much support and desire for an RKP hat.
Robot, God love him, got things rolling with Castelli and we’re pleased to report that they’ll begin shipping from RKP‘s SoCal headquarters during the first week of the Tour. Twenty bucks gets you a cap and some stickers, too.
I will be officially retiring that old, blue Alexia Alluminio cap the moment these arrive.
You can order them here.
A little update: They are here and are shipping out!
The bicycle is progress. From its ability to take us places to the improvements engineers and craftsman have undertaken to improve our performance and experience, it advances us in mind and body.
Commercially speaking, that progress has come with an inflationary black eye. Ten years ago it was hard to spend more than $5000 on a bike but today almost none of the guys I ride with throw a leg over anything worth less than that.
From shifters to frame material, everything is noticeably better than the stuff we used when we were all Freds. And we were, each of us. Well, there’s one exception.
Despite the proliferation of new cycling caps made form polyester (making them easier to clean and keep new-looking), The cotton twill cap that graced the stunning crania of Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Jacques Anquetil has yet to go the way of the Dodo. It’s fair to ask why. If everyone stopped making cotton cycling caps tomorrow, would we rue the loss? We’re not talking old-growth forest or snail darter. If tomorrow every cycling cap for sale were made from polyester, we wouldn’t suffer.
There’s no piece of cycling gear more out of step with the rest of our kit or equipment than the cotton cap. Cotton is the anti-technical material. It is to Merino wool what artificial chocolate is to candy. A crime.
It stains. It gets wet and stays wet. It shrinks. Its dyed colors fade. Its threads go bare. And those are its more charming dimensions.
And yet, I’m glad that that we still have this vestige from an era of cycling that can only otherwise be reached through YouTube, books and eBay. I’ve been given a few of the new “technical” cycling caps, and while they share some of the same materials as mutts and skullies, they lack the romance.
There is no parity among cotton cycling caps, however. Some features play better than others. In discussing this one day with a friend who’s been racing since I was in puberty, he confirmed my beliefs about what constitutes a PRO cap.
First, it should be a four panel design with the two side panels taking the same color, while the front and back can either be the same or contrasting colors. Alternatively, it can be all one color. The brim should be short; a cycling cap is not a baseball cap wanna-be. A 2 1/4” brim is more in keeping with what was worn back in the day. A 2 1/2” brim catches in the wind and can be blown around (or off, if you’ve gone sans casque). Extra style points if top and bottom of the brim are be two different colors. And finally, no ticking.
This isn’t to say I don’t like the others; I’ve got the Campy cap in a few different colors with ticking, but those caps that most recall what was worn by the legends are all, shall we say, of a piece.
The cap shown here epitomizes for me what I both love and hate about the cotton cap. I picked it up on the road one day on a climb outside of Florence, and I’m not talking Alabama. I’d been setting what I believed was a firm tempo on the climb when suddenly these two elves rode by, chatting. They were in their early 20s, were maybe 5’ 6” and 125 lbs. They said ciao and vanished in a super-hero instant.
A kilometer later I came upon the cap that had been perched Miguel Indurain-style on one rider’s head. I scooped it up Dave Stoller-style as I rolled by and then stuck it in the big ring to try to return it.
I crested the climb only to see the two riders drop into the descent. As this was where my friends were to regroup I missed my chance. It took a second before it occurred to me to adopt the cap. Well-worn and worse for it, it’s my favorite cap, in part because it came from an actual PRO.
That a cotton cap can be anything other than a liability when wet may be a minor miracle, like a Suburban getting 50 mpg, or Dick Pound saying something reasonable. But when I’m riding in the rain I usually leave the glasses at home and just rely on the brim to keep the rain out of my eyes. And in keeping the wind out of my hair I stay warmer than I have a right to expect.
Until I see something different on Philippe Gilbert’s head, I’m sticking with this.